As the war of Panem escalates to the destruction of other districts by the Capitol, Katniss Everdeen, the reluctant leader of the rebellion, must bring together an army against President Snow, while all she holds dear hangs in the balance.
Following on from the lacklustre ‘Mockingjay – Part 1’, ‘Mockingjay – Part 2’ is the weakest entry in the ‘Hunger Games’ series, a dull, lifeless film that lacks the intensity of the first two films of the series despite ramping up the death toll. As much as anything, this should be a lesson to all franchise adaptations about extending the final part of a series when there isn’t enough story to warrant it. ‘Part 1’ lacked action but there was some merit in the stripped back approach that allowed the character’s time to breathe and whilst ‘Part 2’ doesn’t want for action, it moves forward in a blur, character’s die, but it all feels very unsatisfying.
Holding things together (just) is Jennifer Lawrence once again, whose Katniss Everdeen is still a hero worth rooting for, and despite her rise to fame/infamy over the course of the series, Lawrence still plays Katniss as the young girl thrust into the limelight and she’s the only thing dragging this series over the finishing line. The love triangle with Peeta and Gail was already played out and the script wisely avoids dwelling on this aspect for too long, although Peeta’s arc is one of the major issues I have with this entry. I’m not sure whether Josh Hutcherson’s performance is to blame, or just bad writing and direction, but the depiction of some kind of Stockholm Syndrome on Peeta’s part is hokey and dreadfully done. The nature of the narrative means that this entry can’t give satisfying arcs to many of the characters who have been crucial throughout the series, with Woody Harrelson in particular being mostly sidelined.
The direction and editing in the action sequences is all over the place, with it never being clear what is going on or where various characters are at any given time. This is not an easy task when you’re shooting in dark tunnels, but for a film of this budget and magnitude you do come to expect better (I’m thinking of the stellar work Neil Marshall has done on a much smaller budget with ‘The Descent’ and two crucial action heavy episodes of ‘Game of Thrones’). Various characters die along the way, but it always happens in such a flurry that it never has the impact you would expect important deaths to have, not on the audience, nor on the characters. Alongside this, there’s a plot that seems to come out of nowhere about President Coin (Julianne Moore) seemingly being just as bad as President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and many of the conclusions feel rushed and underdeveloped.
The real problem ‘The Hunger Games’ has had since moving away from the contained atmosphere of the arena is that it shows a basic level of knowledge around the political elements of the plot, and that worked fine when the story was firmly focused on the game. When the story opens up to focus on the political intrigue and the nuances between warring factions, the fact that this is ultimately based on a novel aimed at teenagers becomes abundantly clear. The film is undoubtedly darker and grimmer than its predecessors, but it lacks the depth to explain the reasons why in a satisfying way.
‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2’ is a lacklustre finale to a series that started strongly and gradually got weaker with each entry. Jennifer Lawrence is still terrific, but she alone is not enough to overcome the many problems with this film, and this is a disappointing conclusion to the ‘Hunger Games’ series.
Directed By: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland, Natalie Dormer, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Mahershala Ali, Michelle Forbes, Elden Henson, Paula Malcolmson, Stanley Tucci and Jeffrey Wright